Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Mix Master

The tragically mundane death of an Australian soldier in Iraq, apparently accidentally shooting himself in the head while cleaning a gun, isn't dramatic enough for journalist Glenn Milne.

Under the headline 'Digger died while cleaning gun' (story link | archived screenshot), Milne first writes:

THE accidental death of a young Australian soldier in Baghdad who died while cleaning his gun will be the subject of a full military inquiry.
Then confusion enters Milne's mind in paragraph two:

The soldier, a member of the Third Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), died while maintaining his gun (my emphasis) inside his barracks in Baghdad on Friday afternoon.
Ok, cleaning is maintenance. However, by the very next paragraph, Milne decides neither are dramatic enough:

The gun accidentally exploded (my emphasis), shooting him in the head.
The journalist and his sub-editors are apparently satisified with this hyperbole because they stay with it in the caption of the accompanying photo:

Accident ... gun 'exploded', shooting soldier in head
Unfortunately, the completely misleading photo shows a soldier with a rifle and the dead man was cleaning a pistol, as Milne and the lazy slack-arsed subs know very well since Milne's next paragraph states:

It is unknown whether there was any fault with the weapon, believed to be the standard issue 9mm Browning pistol.
If it exploded, you can bet there was a fault with it. But what actually happened is it discharged, a much less emotive word used in a later quote from Defence Minister Brendan Nelson:

"The soldier was simply handling his weapon and maintaining his weapon as soldiers are required to do and, for some unexplained reason, the firearm discharged and the bullet unfortunately entered the soldier's head," Dr Nelson said.
Kudos to Nelson for announcing that:

...the man's wife would be involved in drafting the terms of inquiry into the death so that she would be "absolutely comfortable" with the process.
and hats off to the soldier's widow who stressed:

...her husband "loved being in Iraq and loved his job".
where he was a sniper.


-- Nick

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